MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The poor fight for everything they get. They don’t get much.
A free education in city schools is a good thing, and in Memphis, officials feel this opportunity might be the best opportunity to get people out of poverty.
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray says, “Education is the great equalizer. That’s why we are putting in third grade commitment, to ensure our students read at or above grade level by the time they reach third grade.”
Educators from around the country gathered in Memphis this week to discuss poverty and education. It’s not just a Memphis thing. Poverty is felt in all cities.
So educational leaders from across the country came here to see what Memphis is doing and how they are doing it.
“I came because I want to be able to look at the things happening in other cities,” says Alicia Johnson of Pittsburgh City Schools, “… and to be able to take some of these things back to Pittsburgh and see what we can implement in our city.”
They spent quite a bit of time in the area known as South City. It is one of the poorest areas of the city. For years it was known as the home of one of this city’s most violent housing projects – Foote Homes.
This is a conference where educators share ideas. They not only get a chance to see how a place like Memphis is doing away with old housing projects, and replacing them with new homes, they get a chance to share ideas.
According to Dr. Ray, “It really means so much to learn from other educators and see what is their best practices. We don’t have all the answers. It is about hearing from others and how we can positively impact the community.”
Big city school system problems are sometimes enormous.
“Childhood trauma is real,” says Dr. Ray. “Our students come with a 30,000-word deficit. And not only that, they come from dire straits. And it’s much more difficult for them to achieve.”
It is why he says it is important to remember that education is, in his words, “the big equalizer.”